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10 top tips for surviving life in the pub industry

PUBLISHED: 11:36 05 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:44 05 June 2014

The Stag on the River in Eashing

The Stag on the River in Eashing

Red Mist

Celebrating its 10th year, Red Mist Leisure runs five popular pubs in the area, with a turnover of £5.2m. Here, MD Mark Robson (left) shares the secrets of their success...

1 The right location for any business is key

You can have the best product or service, but if your target customer base doesn’t have easy access to you, it can be an uphill battle from the start.


2 Do your homework and research your target market

Surrey is home to a wide array of people with differing ages, disposable incomes and interests. It is important to define who and where your target market are and assess how easily you can access them.


3 Have an effective sales and marketing strategy

Sales are essential to make any business successful. Producing and implementing an effective S&M strategy is key and it has to be constantly reviewed and amended according to the success of each activity. If possible, target times when sales are slow, be it weekly, monthly or seasonally. There is no substitute for solid, proactive marketing to engage with your customers.


4 Give your customers something back

Loyalty schemes are a great way of rewarding customers and increasing loyalty. Consumers love getting value for money and they thrive on getting something back for their custom especially in a downturn. Simplicity is key; don’t make it complicated and risk confusing your customers. A scheme that makes them feel appreciated will build loyalty and keep them coming back.


5 Always deliver amazing customer service

The words ‘customer service’ usually see people glaze over these days because I believe we have, as a society, started accepting average customer service as the norm. Don’t ever accept this as your norm. Customers like to be looked after and treated in a professional and respectful manner. Above all, if you get something wrong, and let’s be honest we all do this, do everything you can to rectify the situation and make your customer happy again. We have a rigid policy of never letting a customer leave unhappy and we empower our managers and staff to make decisions so they never do. Remember that old adage – that a happy customer tells three people and an unhappy one will tell 20!


6 Recruit, train and retain the best staff you can

Finding great staff is critical for all businesses, especially in the hospitality industry where a customer’s experience is very representative of the staff that serve them. Be picky with your recruitment, hire people that are motivated and passionate about what you provide and once you have good people in your team, do everything you can to keep hold of them. Employee benefits, job satisfaction, adequate training, attractive pay and staff incentives are all essential ways of retaining staff.


7 Be consistent

It sounds easy but so often customers change their spending preferences because they are fed up with inconsistency. Test your product or service using mystery shoppers and make sure your customers are able to give you feedback about their experience. Consistency is key to the long-term success of a business and it’s often harder to achieve than people think it is.


8 Embrace technology

In today’s world, technology can be a real asset to your business. Investment in technology is critical to make sure your business operates efficiently and very often it is a great way to generate additional sales. Who would have thought that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook would be as essential as they are in promoting sales for companies the way they do today. They are just as important as a great website these days.


9 Promote your company wherever you can

Raising the profile of your company will generally always help you build more customers. We are very actively involved in local networking groups such as the Godalming Chamber of Commerce, who we host a summer event for each year at the Stag on the River in Eashing. Local awards such as the Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards are a great way to connect with people and we will certainly be entering our pubs and chefs into a number of the categories on offer this year.


10 Learn from your mistakes

2014 is an important year for us as we celebrate our 10th birthday. When I look back, I really wish I had learned more from the mistakes I made in the early years of being in business. At times, such mistakes have cost us a lot of money, but certainly over the years we have learned not to repeat them. We all make a few mistakes in business, but a good entrepreneur doesn’t make the same mistake twice.


• For more information on Red Mist Leisure and their pubs, visit their website:




The low-down...

Red Mist Leisure owns and runs five pubs, four of which are in Surrey and one just over the border in Hampshire, all focusing on fresh, seasonal food and drink.

These comprise of The Queen’s Head in East Clandon; The Stag on the River in Eashing; The Duke of Cambridge in Tilford; The Wheatsheaf in Farnham; and The Exchequer in Crookham.

“We are very passionate about pubs and very much enjoy what we do and take great pride in what we achieve each and every day,” says Mark Robson. “This year marks our 10th birthday and we have a number of initiatives and competitions running to make sure we thoroughly mark the occasion; it’s been a long road!”

Today, the company has a turnover of £5.2m and employs a team of around 150 people. Aside from their five pubs, they also have a head office in Pyrford, Woking, which is home to both their finance and marketing teams.

“We have much change going on in the company this year with the implementation of new IT and purchasing systems, new operating software (payroll, stock management, HR, tills etc) and of course the new pension legislation, which comes into force for us in July.

“So, no new pubs this year, but we will be on the look-out again next year!”





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